CyberLink PhotoDirector 5 Ultra

Photodirector 5 boasts a comprehensive RAW workflow comparable to the likes of Lightroom 5 and incorporates global adjustments similar to those found in Photoshop. Essentially, PhotoDirector is a RAW workflow package with some editing adjustments built in, but it doesn’t feature Layers and isn’t designed for complex image manipulation. If you’re looking for a comprehensive RAW converter though, it could answer all of your imaging conundrums all under one roof. We find out as we put it to the test.

CyberLink PhotoDirector 5 Ultra

CyberLink PhotoDirector 5 Ultra


PhotoDirector 5 has a toolbar at the top of the screen with Library, Adjustment, Edit, Slideshow and Print tabs. The Toolbox sits at the side of your pic with the Photo bin below it. Your images can be sorted and organised using the Library tab, while you can edit your JPEGs or RAW files using the Adjustment and Edit tabs.

Seven new features make this the best version to date, and include a Bracketed HDR command for punchier shots, Auto Lens Correction to tame barrel distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberration, RGB Channel Curve Adjustments for contrast and colour control and a Split Toning feature for enhancing mono pics. The workflow also sees new High DPI Support and slideshows with effects and background music can be produced at a high-resolution, 4K output.

Features carried across from the previous version of PhotoDirector include the Content-Aware Removal tool for getting rid of unwanted objects, and a People Beautifier to clean up portraits using the Tooth Brush, Eye Blinger, Skin Smoother, Wrinkle Remover and Body Shaper.

Interface & Performance

The PhotoDirector 5 interface is intuitive and easy to navigate thanks to the five tabs along the Toolbar at the top of the interface. The first tab, Library, is where you can import and organise your pics by star rating or colour coding.

The next tab – Adjustment – can be used to edit the Exposure, White Balance and other settings of both your RAWs and JPEGs. You can also apply regional changes such as Crop and Spot Removal.

We loaded the same RAW into PhotoDirector and Adobe Camera Raw with no adjustments applied to compare the two, straight out the camera. We found the Adobe Camera Raw pic looked more natural in colour, as the skin tones on our portraits were warmer in PhotoDirector 5. This was easy to tweak, though, so no big deal.

Under the Edit tab it’s possible to apply effects or tidy up the shot. And once you click on the Adjustment tab you start working on a backup of the original pic so if you ever want to revert, you still have the original intact. Here you’ll find the People Beautifier for pepping up portrait pics. You can choose from the Tooth Brush to whiten teeth, an Eye Blinger tool to dodge and burn contrast into the eyes, a Skin Smoother to soften blemishes, a Wrinkle Remover and a Body Shaper which works a bit like Photoshop’s Liquify tool to pull and push pixels into shape.

There are no Layers involved in these effects, so you can’t turn on and switch off changes freely – you have to undo the action if you decide you don’t want it.

The adjustment sliders in the Toolbox seemed a little less refined than those of Lightroom, and very subtle changes were easier to make by notching up the numerical values with successive clicks, rather than dragging the sliders.

Removing unwanted objects was a breeze using the Smart Patch and Content Aware Removal tools, though. We were impressed by its hit rate – it only struggled with difficult patterns such as brickwork but it was easy to use and fast to apply.

We loved the Bracketed HDR feature too, which takes up to five JPEG or RAW files and creates an HDR image. It’s really easy to get that heightened HDR look or a more restrained, well-balanced exposure using the Glow, Edge, Detail and Tone sliders. It doesn’t have the same level of control as a bespoke HDR package but it’s certainly enough to get you going.

We also had no qualms with the Slideshow and Printing tabs and were glad to see them included.

Value for money

At the current price of £39.99 PhotoDirector 5 Ultra undercuts both the Elements 12 (£62.99) and the Lightroom 5 (£99) downloads, but provides a similar capability to the latter.

Users of Lightroom won’t have any reason to switch, but those using just Elements will appreciate the advanced control PhotoDirector 5 offers for more intricate RAW conversions, and will enjoy the ability to use the local adjustments options to fine-tune the contrast and brightness in different areas of the same RAW file.

At a penny under £40 PhotoDirector is high on value and offers a sound budget option for advanced RAW conversion, and has some nice extra features to give your pics a new look.


PhotoDirector 5 is a comprehensive RAW editor that also has some nifty options for effects. It offers a good array of extra features for creating HDRs and retouching shots, and though its performance isn’t quite as slick as Lightroom, it’s still a capable package that will appeal to many.


  • Street Price: £53 (Secondhand price as of June 2016)
  • Free trial available: Yes
  • Supported formats: JPEG, TIFF & RAW
  • System requirements: Windows 8/8.1, 7, Vista, XP 32bit (windows XP Service Pack 3 is required)
  • Features include: Non-destructive editing, regional adjustments, histogram, lens correction, noise reduction, RGB curves, creative effects, HDR split toning, people beautifier tools, content aware removal
  • Also available: PhotoDirector 5 Suite edition £67.99
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This review was first published in the March 2014 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.